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Car Rentals/ Driving your own vehicle in Vancouver and BC (+ rentals in other cities):

 

BC Road & Highway Reports & Conditions

You may drive in BC with a valid drivers license from another jurisdiction. An international drivers licence is not required. Check with your own insurer regarding your liability in an accident. If you rent a car, it is essential to make sure you are covered for both collision and liability. Some credit cards cover you for this automatically. Liability settlements in Canada are low compared to the United States. 2 million dollars in liability should be more than enough. If you have an accident, you will have to deal with the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia. They handle all licensing and liability insurance in British Columbia. The other vehicle may have collision coverage through another provider such as Canada Direct, but all accident reports have to be handled through ICBC. A link to their web site can be found in the table below. BC has a reciprocal agreement with some US States should you receive a speeding violation. If you rent a car you will likely have to leave a charge card imprint. This is to cover the rental company should they receive traffic violation notices in the mail. Photo Radar was discontinued in BC in June 2001, but intersection cameras are prevalent, so don't run red lights.

Car Rental is not particularly cheap, but this is the best way to see the city, its environs, and the rest of BC. Many of the best places around here are only accessible by car. Shop around, as prices vary considerably. If you are planning on seeing the rest of the province, make sure you have unlimited mileage, distances are vast. Drivers in Vancouver are NOT known for their courtesy and red light running is rampant. Also avoid driving to Downtown between 7 AM and 9 AM, or from Downtown between 3 PM and 6 PM, unless you enjoy traffic jams. Turning right on a red light is legal here, unlike in many places. If you just sit there, you will find cars behind, honking at you. Vancouver is known as the tow-away capital of the world, although it doesn't seem to be as bad as it used to be. Make sure you are vigilant about where you park, especially on the main routes between 6 AM and 9:30 AM and also 3 PM and 6 PM. If you do get towed, good luck. Your car will have taken to one of several lots and when you do locate it, you will have to pay a hefty ransom. If you are renting a car in the winter and are planning to travel into the interior, ensure it has either snow tires or virtually new all season radials (they become summer tires after one season of use). It is also a good idea to carry a sleeping bag with you inside the vehicle (not in the trunk) in case you run off the road. People have frozen to death in a vehicle by being trapped inside it on occasion.

Fuel costs range from about 80-95 cents Canadian  a litre or about $2.30-$2.50 US/gallon. Price wars are ongoing and its not unusual to see a 10 cent a litre change overnight. The usual price is generally around 90 cents. (Sept 2004) This is about 1/2 the cost of Europe and about 15% higher than in the US. Canadian fuel is higher in octane than American, so our regular is equivalent to US premium. ALL FUEL IN CANADA IS UNLEADED. If you are from the States and have an older car that requires leaded fuel, visit a Canadian Tire Store or any other automotive store and buy an additive. Mohawk Gas stations use a gas-alcohol mix, but this will not harm most engines and is good for the environment. If you have excel on your computer I maintain a chart at http://www.vancouver.hm/Gas.xls. You can use it to convert Canadian per litre to US per gallon for different exchange rates.

If you are planning on seeing the rest of BC, Car Rental is probably your best, although not necessarily your cheapest option. For the budget single traveller especially, the Moose-Run Bus above, is likely the best option. If you can share car rental costs with 1 or 2 others, though, the rental option becomes economic. Fuel costs in Canada are cheap, compared with most parts of the world and a 10 day to 2 week trip around the province will likely put you back about $200-300 ($150-$200 US) in fuel costs. This means with 3 people, you should break even with the Moose-Run option for a 2 week trip and have the freedom of going where and when you want. You should not feel nervous about driving in BC (outside of Vancouver), even if you are used to driving on the left. Highways in the Province are well constructed and generally un-crowded. In July and August, you will find yourself stuck behind slow moving Campers and Trailers a fair bit. Exercise extra caution on winding Mountain highways, especially Highway 99 to Whistler. BC drivers are not very courteous when it comes to overtaking. Most drivers hate to have anyone pass them. If you are South African, where moving to the shoulder to let someone pass is normal, you will find this especially frustrating. In July and August, you may have to pre-book Motels and some Hostels and Campsites (see my accommodation section). Bush camping is not strictly legal, but you can get away with it, especially if you pull out of sight of the highway. (Please do not light a campfire, if you do this, you stand a good chance of being the cause of a forest fire and it is also illegal to have a campfire through much of the summer.) See my "Accommodation" section for advice and details.

If you are planning to travel on Vancouver Island as part of your Rental Car experience, you might want to consider renting separately over there. It will cost you over $80, return fare, to take a car back and forth on the Ferry. It might be cheaper to rent a separate car for Vancouver Island. You can also face long waits to get a car on the ferry in the summer months.

The table below contains links to most of the Car Rental Companies. The first link is a reservation service that will hopefully find you the best deal.

  Car Rental Links:  

Online Booking book a car online
Best Price Car Rental
No Frills - Rent a used car for less than $20 a day
Prime Rentals
Budget Rent a Car Corporation
ABC Rent-a-Car 
Discount Car and Truck Rentals Home Page 
Exotic Car and Motorcycle rental 
Alamo Car Rental 
Avis  
Dollar Rent A Car Vancouver
Hertz Worldwide Locations 
National Car Rental 
Thrifty Car Rental 
Enterprise Rent-A-Car
Insurance Corporation of BC

These are links to car rental services in other cities & countries. E-Mail me if you would like yours added.

Other Cities/Countries

Car Rental Ireland - Best Value Car Rental in Ireland
Car Rental New Zealand - Auckland Airport
Hirecars.co.uk - discount international car hire
e-Car Rental Ireland - online Irish car hire service
Hotels Discount Car Rentals
Car Rentals in the UK & elsewhere in Europe
Rental Cars Worldwide - Car Hire - Car Rentals